Biz Beat

Once an east Modesto magnet, Century Center gets second shot with new ownership

Modesto’s Century Center has a new owner who hopes to breathe new life into the once-bustling complex.

The east Modesto shopping center, which had been anchored for decades by Gottschalks department store and Raley’s supermarket before their departures several years ago, has been purchased by New York-based commercial real estate firm Somera Road, Inc. in partnership with local investing group Graceada Partners, LLC. The East Coast company paid $12.25 million for the 214,389-square-foot retail center at the corner of Orangeburg Avenue and Oakdale Road, according to public real estate records.

Somera announced it will pump $3 million in capital improvements into the center to help modernize and update the site in hopes of bringing it back to its former glory.

“This is what Somera does; we really enjoy buying these types of assets and improving centers in the communities. We’re excited to be part of Modesto and looking for more opportunities in California,” said Somera Road Vice President of Acquisitions Jonathon Reeser. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be 100 percent occupied.”

Century Center is Somera’s first acquisition in California. Reeser said it came on their radar when it was listed for sale on an online marketplace about a year ago. The previous property owner had been foreclosed on around 2016.

Marty Bicek

Reeser said he expects to keep the complex’s existing tenants, which include long-running restaurants like Ridgway’s and Torii Japanese Steakhouse as well as newer tenants like the MB2 Racecar indoor go-kart track and Planet Fitness gym. Two other new tenants are slated to move in at the start of the new year: a dialysis center (in between the racetrack and gym) and a new taqueria. Reeser said the center was about 80 percent full when Somera took over on Nov. 1.

First opened in 1979, Century Center was anchored by a large Raley’s grocery store until the company closed the location in 2012. At the time the center was still staggering from the loss of Gottschalks, which had been in the center for 25 years before going out of business and shuttering all of its stores in 2009. Since then a Blockbuster Video and Starbucks have also departed the center.

While the 90,000-square-feet of Gottschalk space has been repurposed and released (to the go-kart racetrack and Planet Fitness, respectively), the Raley’s anchor space has been vacant for the last six years. Raley’s moved its supermarket out of Century Center in 2012 to make way for its large, modern location in Village One. But while the supermarket chain vacated the space six years ago, it never stopped paying its lease.

Marty Bicek

In fact, according to Reeser, Raley’s re-upped its lease for another five years around 2014. By holding onto its lease, the company blocked other grocery stores from moving into its former space, and limiting the competition for its new Raley’s farther north. That lease ends at the start of 2019, and Reeser said it’s still unclear if the company will try to re-up its lease again or leave the center altogether.

Raley’s Corporate Director for Consumer & Public Affairs Chelsea Minor said it was not the company’s normal practice to leave a store vacant. She said Raley’s is currently negotiating with the landlord and a prospective subtenant. But Minor said she could not share any more details on who could be moving into the space.

Regardless of what happens to the Raley’s space, Somera plans to make improvements on the property. Reeser said they will re-do the parking lot with fresh paving and striping, add new monument signs on the street and improve the look of the building facades. Expect work on those project to begin at the start of the new year.

Marty Bicek

Reeser said his company is optimistic about bringing new businesses into the complex. The partnership with Graceada Partners, a Central Valley real estate investment group led by local NAI Benchmark principals Ryan Swehla and Joe Muratore, has helped to bolster their enthusiasm in the project.

“It always makes us feel better when people in the market want to buy into (someplace),” Reeser said. “Even with the old Raley’s space being dark, there’s still great potential. This is a key center to support those surrounding neighborhoods and it’s well on its way to being full.”

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